Limited Correlation between SARS-CoV-2 Serologic Assays for Identification of High-Titer COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Using FDA Thresholds

Nicholas E. Larkey, Radwa Ewaisha, Michael A. Lasho, Matthew M. Roforth, Dane Granger, Calvin R. Jerde, Liang Wu, Amy Gorsh, Stephen A. Klassen, Jonathon W. Senefeld, Michael J. Joyner, Nikola A. Baumann, Elitza S. Theel, John R. Mills

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In August 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for COVID-19 convalescent plasma (CCP) specified 12 authorized serologic assays and associated assay-specific cutoff values for the selection of high-titer CCP for use in hospitalized patients. The criteria used for establishing these cutoff values remains unclear. Here, we compare the overall agreement and concordance of five serologic assays included in the August 2020 FDA EUA at both the manufacturer-recommended qualitative cutoff thresholds and at the FDA-indicated thresholds for high-titer CCP, using serum samples collected as part of the CCP Expanded Access Program (EAP). The qualitative positive percent agreement (PPA) across assays ranged from 92.3% to 98.8%. However, the high-titer categorization across assays varied significantly, with the PPA ranging from 26.5% to 82.7%. The Roche anti-NC ECLIA provided the lowest agreement compared to all other assays. Efforts to optimize high-titer cutoffs could reduce, although not eliminate, the discordance across assays. The consequences of using nonstandardized assays are apparent in our study, and the high-titer cutoffs chosen for each assay are not directly comparable to each other. The generalized findings in our study will be relevant to any future use of convalescent plasma for either COVID-19 or future pandemics of newly emerged pathogens. IMPORTANCE COVID-19 convalescent plasma (CCP) was one of the first therapeutic options available for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infections and continues to be used selectively for immunosuppressed patients. Given the emergence of novel SARS-CoV-2 variants which are resistant to treatment with available monoclonal antibody (MAb) therapy, CCP remains an important therapeutic consideration. The FDA has released several emergency use authorizations (EUA) that have specified which serological assays can be used for qualification of CCP, as well as assay-specific cutoffs that must be used to identify high-titer CCP. In this study, a cohort of donor CCP was assessed across multiple serological assays which received FDA EUA for qualification of CCP. This study indicates a high degree of discordance across the assays used to qualify CCP for clinical use, which may have precluded the optimal use of CCP, including during clinical trials. This study highlights the need for assay standardization early in the development of serological assays for emerging pathogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e0115422
JournalMicrobiology Spectrum
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 31 2022


  • antibody
  • assay standardization
  • CCP
  • COVID-19 convalescent plasma
  • high-titer convalescent plasma
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • serological assays
  • serology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Ecology
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology
  • Infectious Diseases


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